We are proud that our sustainability program goes beyond a roadmap for ski area operations. Sustainability is part of our culture. We have large-scale projects such as carbon offsets for all of our vehicles, on-site solar arrays, and special efforts made when constructing lifts to minimize our environmental impact.
Additionally, all of us as staff are engaged in recycling, composting, and reducing our energy usage both on site and at home. And through our social media and video efforts, we are working to teach skiers and riders simple ways to reduce their impacts on an everyday basis.
Read about our overarching initiatives or jump to a detailed list of specific projects.
Waste reduction efforts are part of every employee’s daily job responsibilities. Recycling and composting are available across the mountain. All cutlery and cafeteria tableware, including water cups, are reusable, and any service containers that aren’t reusable are recyclable. “Hydration stations” encourage guests to refill their own water bottles. Our retail shop, Arapahoe Sports, participates in the TerraCycle program, allowing us to recycle otherwise non-recyclable items like packing peanuts, bubble wrap, shrink wrap, and waxy paper.
Achieving 100% renewable electricity will get us closer to carbon neutrality than any of our other goals or initiatives. Renewable electricity has become a centerpiece of our sustainability model, from installing solar panels on multiple buildings and lift shacks, to sourcing solar energy from a Colorado-based project to run our snowmaking and some of our lifts. Energy efficiency is also important, with projects ranging from complex building and HVAC controls to replacing more than 500 lightbulbs with low-energy options.
The National Ski Area Association’s "No Idling Policy" was adopted in 2010-11 season in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fuel costs, and vehicle hours. Idling times must be limited to 5 minutes for gas-powered vehicles and 15 minutes for diesel. Guests are strongly encouraged to adhere to these guidelines in addition to staff and mountain vehicles.
Public Transportation & Carpooling
We strongly encourage guests and employees to ride the free Summit Stage bus or to carpool to the ski area. Guests will receive a significant discount off their window priced lift ticket and reserved, preferential parking spaces are available to those who carpool. Employees are required to carpool or ride the bus to work on Saturdays and Sundays.
Employees making purchasing decisions are encouraged to purchase from environmentally-responsible companies that manufacture environmentally-friendly products. Employees are empowered to spend a certain percentage more on such goods and services, such as Stone Paper trail maps. Additionally, departments collaborate on purchase orders to reduce the number of delivery truck visits to the Basin.
We work to provide a functional and attractive event venue that encourages guests, staff and partners to limit the environmental impacts of their events. Compost and recycle bins are always provided, carpooling is encouraged, and vendors are held to high standards regarding their waste creation and energy use.
Department Sustainability Plans
Each department at A-Basin develops a sustainability plan specific to their own operation. These plans outline ways for their employees to uphold and contribute to A-Basin’s sustainability goals within the scope of their day-to-day responsibilities. From ski patrol and food and beverage, to marketing and accounting, no one is excluded from having a plan.
A-Basin Employee Environmental Fund
For more than 10 seasons, A-Basin employees have supported the work of two Summit County open-space organizations: Friends of the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness and the Continental Divide Land Trust. Via the Employee Environmental Fund, A-Basin employees donate pre-tax dollars from their paychecks, and all donations are matched by the Basin. More than $50,000 has been raised in support of land conservation and stewardship in our home county.
Major Sustainability Projects
Offsetting all ski area fuel use to reduce carbon emissions
We partnered with the Colorado Carbon Fund (CCF) in 2019 to offset our gasoline, diesel and propane use. This includes everything from our snowcats to our work trucks. The CCF partnership allows us to support Colorado projects such as grassland protection, carbon sequestration farming and the Larimer Gas to Energy Project. These offsets account for roughly one-quarter of our total greenhouse gas emissions and move us substantially closer to achieving carbon neutrality.
Arapahoe Sports recycling program
Arapahoe Sports, our retail store, partners with TerraCycle and Patagonia to collect and recycle or repurpose non-recyclable plastics. These partnerships allow us to keep most of our plastic shipping materials, laminated paper, and other plastic waste out of our Summit County landfill. Staff are invited and encouraged to bring these materials in from home.
Stone Paper trail maps
We have been printing our trail maps on Stone Paper since 2019. Stone Paper saves trees, reduces water use, eliminates many production chemicals, and reduces the environmental impacts of traditional paper. Stone Paper is also much more durable, making your map last much longer. Put your trail map in a collection bin when you’re finished so we can reuse it.
Supporting National Forest Foundation’s Ski Conservation Fund
Since 2011, A-Basin has been a key partner in this program, encouraging guests to make contributions benefiting the White River National Forest, our home. The money we have raised together has so far contributed to multiple grants that support forest projects, including trail maintenance and tree planting.
Energy-efficient snowmaking powered 100% by solar since 2018
Thanks to Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect program, all of our snowmaking and some of our chairlifts are powered by a solar project located in eastern Colorado. Installed in 2003, our mostly airless snowmaking system uses only a portion the energy a conventional system would. Our snowmaking also follows strict water-use commitments that help protect the habitat of the Snake River.
Highest-elevation solar array in the country
30 solar panels on the roof of the Snowplume Refuge (ski patrol HQ and the il Rifugio restaurant, pictured above) provide for approximately 95% of the energy that building uses. The building also features composting toilets, energy efficient building controls, and other sustainable features.
The FreeAire system in the A-Frame’s walk-in coolers monitors indoor and outdoor temperature, cycling clean mountain air into the cooler whenever the outside air temperature falls below a certain point. By utilizing existing cold air more than 200 days per year, the walk-in’s evaporator and condenser motors remain idle much of the time, leading to significant reductions in energy use and maintenance costs.
The CleanBurn Technologies furnace in our large maintenance shop is able to burn used motor oil, hydraulic fluid, and other engine waste to heat the building. Vehicle, snowcat and equipment oil changes mean we are able to purchase less and less propane each year. This also limits the need for hauling our waste oil off-site via costly, polluting trucks.
New buildings built efficiently
In March of 2015, we completed construction of the Kids Center building, housing kids ski school, first aid and ski patrol offices. This building incorporated sustainable practices in its design and construction, including efficient heating and cooling systems, water-saving fixtures, repurposed barn wood and beetle kill pine, and a 13.5 kW solar array producing about 15 MW of solar energy per season.
Energy-efficient lighting and water fixtures
In 2012, we replaced more than 500 lights with newer, more efficient bulbs. These upgrades saved more than 53,000 kWh and 37 tons of CO2 emissions per year. We’ve since revisited many of these areas, upgrading to LED bulbs and further reducing our electricity use. And in 2019 we remodeled our aging, A-Frame bathrooms with waterless, hybrid, and low-flow fixtures that significantly reduced our water use.
Ace’s Wild Adventure: Getting kids involved
Educational signs across the mountain teach about local plants, animals, and mountain ecosystems in kid-friendly terms. The areas correspond to collector cards that kids can accumulate over the course of their ski or ride lessons, and challenge them to cultivate an environmental ethic with fun and easy sustainability challenges.
NSAA Sustainable Slopes Charter Co-Founder
In 2000, A-Basin co-founded and adopted the National Ski Area Association’s Sustainable Slopes Environmental Charter. The charter pledged the ski industry and member ski areas to be leaders among providers of outdoor recreation in committing to environmental stewardship and improving environmental performance in all aspects of their operations.
NSAA Climate Challenge Co-Founder
In 2008, A-Basin joined, as a founding member, NSAA’s Climate Challenge. As part of the Climate Challenge, member ski areas have to track and inventory their greenhouse gas emissions, set an emissions reduction goal, and implement one project a year aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Summit County Partners In Energy
In 2015, we teamed up with XCEL Energy, Summit County government and the High Country Conservation Center to develop county-wide energy reduction strategies. In an unprecedented collaboration, the county’s major ski areas partnered to establish their own goals and strategies, and shared their experiences and success stories to help everyone reduce their energy use. Together, each of the ski areas has reduced its energy use significantly.